Friday, July 12, 2013

A Personal Letter from Beethoven

When the name Beethoven is mentioned, you probably think of one of his many compositions and start humming. You think about him being deaf when he composed the Symphony No. 9 in D minor. You might even think about the mystery woman - his "Immortal Beloved." And that's usually where it stops. Right?

Rauner has one letter from Beethoven to Christoph August Tiedge from September, 1811. It's a small window into Beethoven's personal life and his interactions with friends and acquaintances. In it he discusses his meeting with Tiedge and bemoans the fact that they did not become friends sooner. He  writes "Every day I blow myself up for not having to got to know you sooner at Teplitz" and goes on to mention that he would like to "hop over to the capital of Saxony" to see Tiedge again and that he has decided not to visit his patron the Archduke.
...I received a letter from my gracious and musical Archduke saying that...he was letting me decide whether I should go to him or not. Well, I put the best construction on this in accordance with my intentions and desires; and that is why you see I am still here...
Beethoven then rambles on a bit about his room-mate having "got lost today...and so I could not claim his company." He closes with "I am expecting at least one word without any reserve, chiefly because I can take it."


The letter is in German, but a transcription is housed with the manuscript.  Ask for Mss 811506.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Restrained Extravagance

In 1897, Charles Ashbee set up the Essex House Press. He hired many of the craftsmen originally employed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press to pursue his own utopian dream of art, craft and labor united. Like Morris before him, he espoused a socialist ideal and actually put it into practice in his worker-owned shop. But also like Morris, the output of his press was far too expensive for the working class.

This edition of Robert Burns's Tam-O'Shanter (London: Essex House Press, 1902) is a case in point.  It was designed and printed to meet the exacting standards of a select and wealthy bibliophile audience. Printed on vellum with hand illumination (yes, that's gold in the letter C) only 150 copies were produced for firms of Edward Arnold in London and Samuel Buckley in New York to sell their clientele.

The book is a model of restrained extravagance that is aesthetically positioned between the over-the-top typography of Kelmscott and the austerity of Doves Press. It is a book that draws you in with its beauty but invites you to read with its clean presentation of the text.

You can see it in the context of the Kelmscott Press between now and August 30th in the Class of 1965 Galleries in Rauner Library in the exhibit When Adam Delved and Eve Span: William Morris and the Politics of the Book.  After August 30th, ask for Presses E78bu.